Washington University launches strategic planning process

Community-driven effort will develop roadmap for university’s next decade

With an aim to be bold, transformative and collaborative, Washington University in St. Louis has officially begun its strategic planning process to develop a roadmap that will guide the university’s future over the next decade. “WashU Strategic Planning: Defining Our Vision for Washington University’s Future” will be an 18-month endeavor, heavily informed by feedback from members of the university community.

“This is an exciting time for Washington University, brimming with potential for what will undoubtedly be a remarkable future,” said Chancellor Andrew D. Martin. “After a challenging year in which we have clearly demonstrated that we are capable of doing anything we set our minds to, we are ready to turn our attention to not only maintaining, but building our momentum as we work to advance our mission in education, research and patient care. I’m extraordinarily pleased to have the strategic planning process underway and eager to complete the plan, and then put it into action.”

Under the leadership of Provost Beverly Wendland, the strategic planning process will be informed by five guiding principles:

  • Inclusion, diversity, equity and access
  • Global perspective
  • Stewardship
  • Community impact
  • Academic distinction

“These guiding principles are at the heart of our process and will be at the core of our plan,” Wendland said. “The work we do will reflect these principles, and our plan will advance our capacity to live them out.”

Through the lens of these five guiding principles, the planning will be organized around nine topics:

  • Campus wellness
  • Digital transformation
  • Environment, climate change and sustainability
  • Graduate and professional education
  • Personal and professional growth
  • Public health
  • Research enterprise
  • St. Louis Initiative
  • Undergraduate education

“We are intentionally centering our efforts around specific topics that permeate all aspects of our lives here at Washington University,” Wendland said. “These areas represent not only our highest priorities, but also the places where we feel there is the most potential for us to grow and become even more distinctive as an institution of research and higher learning. This is not an exclusive list – we will, of course, also consider other issues of importance to our community throughout the planning process. But by identifying specific topics into which to dive more deeply, we gain the opportunity to engage on these topics in a more meaningful way, and to create a plan with robust, tangible goals for achieving success in strategically focused areas of excellence.”

The planning process will be led by a steering committee chaired by Wendland and comprising 16 faculty members from across the university, with Martin as an ex-officio member. The steering committee is responsible for guiding the overall vision and strategy of the plan and defining the underlying values for the process. The  coordinating committee, which reports to the steering committee, oversees the progress of working groups that are charged with producing reports on the nine topics. Both of these groups include faculty, staff and students from numerous departments and perspectives, representing the wide variety of contributions individuals make to the university community.

“While our work is organized around nine topics, our project is ultimately grounded in the five guiding principles,” Wendland said. “We chose not to have any of these principles as their own topic for a working group because they are so central to what we do at WashU that they simply cannot be limited to a single report. Instead, the five guiding principles have to suffuse each of the working group reports. None of these reports can achieve their full potential without, for example, inclusion, diversity, equity and access (IDEA) being at their core. Not a single one. IDEA and the other four guiding principles have to be embedded in our work.”

“This planning process will be an opportunity for our university community to reflect, engage and think together about our future,” said Deanna Barch, professor of psychological and brain sciences, steering committee member and co-chair of the research enterprise working group. “We’re looking forward to engaging with our faculty, students and staff to listen to their ideas and concerns about the opportunities and challenges that the next decade will present for the university. It’s an exciting time for all of us as we chart our course for the university’s next chapter of excellence as an institution of higher learning and outstanding research.”

Starting this month, working groups will begin the process of gathering feedback and background information in preparation for drafting reports on each theme. These reports will serve as the foundation for the development of the strategic plan. The full plan has an anticipated completion date of May 2022, which is when the Board of Trustees is expected to adopt the plan. Click here for a more detailed timeline.

Throughout the planning process, members of the Washington University community will have the opportunity to provide input and feedback to inform the committees’ work.

“This is not a top-down exercise, but a truly collaborative process,” Wendland said. “In order for the university to reach new heights in the next decade, our plan must represent the vision and priorities of the people who are living our mission through their teaching and learning, their research, and their service to patients and society. If we are to be successful, it is critical that we hear the voices of those who will ultimately bring our vision to life. We are eager to hear from our faculty, staff, students, trustees, and alumni, as well as members of the St. Louis community, as we are charting our course for the future.”

Members of the university community are invited to share their perspectives throughout the process. An online feedback form is available, and everyone also is encouraged to provide input and feedback in order to inform the committees’ work. In the next several months, there will be opportunities to engage with members of the planning committees, and details about these events will be listed on the strategic planning website.

“This is our plan – every one of us has something to contribute,” Wendland said. “I hope to see a lot of participation within our community, and the entire planning group is looking forward to hearing a wide range of perspectives in the months ahead.”

More information is available on the strategic planning website, where news and updates will be shared throughout the planning process.